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Picture Disc Vinyl: What Is It And Does It Sound Worse?

Collecting Records Is About More Than Just Great Sound. 


Vinyl records offer listeners a unique and incredibly immersive listening experience – but that’s not all they have to give. In addition to providing you with excellent analog sound, vinyl records also have a distinct aesthetic appeal. To put it simply, records look awesome.


If you are already a veteran vinyl enthusiast, you know what we mean. You can spend hours carefully examining each record in your collection, looking at inserts, jacket art, and much more. Even the discs themselves, with their signature shape and weight, are pleasing to the eye. The aesthetic beauty of vinyl as a format is one of the primary factors that keeps so many collectors coming back and adding more records to their shelves.


One of the best parts of building your vinyl collection is getting to open up a new record and take it in as a piece of art. For both your eyes and ears, a record can be a true masterpiece to behold. Whether you are just getting started on your vinyl-collecting journey or have already been an avid devotee of the format for years, the sense of wonder that comes from opening a new record never goes away.


Picture Disc Vinyl: Adding To Vinyl’s Visual Appeal 


Some of the most appealing aspects of a vinyl record’s design are its jacket and inserts. You can usually find art, lyric sheets, or photos inside a record’s jacket, and these little collectibles make listening to vinyl even more rewarding. The jacket, which holds a record and any inserts that are paired with it, is a work of art in and of itself. A record jacket is printed on both sides, displaying an enlarged version of an album’s artwork.


While the jacket and inserts are typically some of the most visually appealing aspects of a record, the vinyl itself can also look incredible. Even blank, unprinted vinyl records are worthy of displaying on your wall, but some records are printed to display unique art. These records, called picture disc vinyl, look incredible, and they add an additional collectible element to an album. When you pull out a picture disc vinyl from its sleeve, it’s just as exciting as looking through the collectible inserts included with the record or examining the art on the jacket.


Colored vinyl, another type of picture disc vinyl, has grown in popularity over the years. A colored LP is often covered with a coating that matches one of the colors found on an album’s artwork. Colored vinyl can also add to the aesthetic appeal of a record, and they’re often just as sought after as collectors’ items as records with full-fledged artwork printed on them.


How Picture Disc Vinyl Is Different 


Picture disc vinyl records are still primarily made from the same material as standard LPs. However, these records also include a double-sided printed coating that is sealed over the vinyl. The addition of this coating can affect sound quality in some cases.


Because picture disc vinyl records are printed, there is a layer of material standing between the stylus of your record player and the vinyl itself. This layer of material can make a record sound noisier, with the printed coating causing some minor distortion as a record spins on your turntable.


However, the difference that you get in sound quality from picture disc records is usually not too noticeable. For many vinyl enthusiasts, a bit of extra noise in the signal is a sacrifice worth making for a beautiful printed record. In addition, the manufacturing techniques used to make picture disc records have improved over the years, making it easier to maintain optimal sound quality in printed vinyl.


Picture Disc Vinyl Records Are Collectibles 


While the printing on a picture disc vinyl can have an impact on sound quality in some cases, this doesn’t deter many record collectors from seeking out picture disc editions of their favorite LPs. Ultimately, these records are collectibles, making them desirable for devoted fans of artists who want to add limited-edition releases to their collections.


Vinyl isn’t just an excellent format for listening to music – it’s also display-worthy art for your home. Because picture disc vinyl records look so incredible, many record collectors are willing to take the risk of getting slightly lower sound quality in order to get a record that they will be proud to display on the wall at home.


Do Picture Disc Records Always Sound Worse? 


As the methods used to manufacture picture disc records have improved over time, the amount of noise that can come from these records has also decreased. If picture disc vinyl still offers inferior sound, it’s only to a marginal degree. In addition, some picture disc records are pressings of a remastered version of an album. A remaster can add a new sonic dimension to an album, and the changes to the listening experience that you get from a remaster can balance out the potential sound quality gap that you might get from a printed vinyl.


It’s worthwhile to approach picture disc records on a case-by-case basis instead of writing these types of records off completely. Some picture disc vinyl, especially older releases, may sound noticeably worse than standard records. However, this is not always the case, and there are plenty of steps you can take to get the best possible sound out of any record you listen to by upgrading your audio setup.


So, do picture disc records always sound worse? The short answer is no!


 How To Minimize Noise & Distortion When Listening To Picture Disc Records 


The best way to get a great listening experience out of picture disc vinyl records is to optimize your sound equipment. Your turntable, its parts, and your amplification setup – speakers and a preamp – can all play key roles in the sound that you get from a record. Keeping your records in good condition and performing routine upkeep and maintenance can also help you get great sound quality from picture disc or standard vinyl.


Below are a few simple, practical steps you can take to get the most out of any record in your collection, including picture disc vinyl.

Invest In A High-Quality Cartridge 


Your turntable’s cartridge can make or break your listening experience. The cartridge is one of the components of your turntable that is worth splurging on – for the amount of impact that it can have on sound quality, it’s worth the investment.


The cartridge holds the stylus, or needle, which rides in the grooves of a record as it spins. As the stylus reads the grooves of a record, it picks up vibrations, which are then converted into electrical signals by a magnetic coil in the cartridge. These signals can then be amplified to produce sound.


A low-quality cartridge will get you noisy, distorted, lossy sound that does not do justice to your favorite albums. To get the most out of vinyl, make sure that your cartridge is made well!


Revamp Your Preamp 


The preamp is the component in your signal chain that makes the sound from a record audible. The cartridge produces electrical signals as a record spins, but these signals are too quiet to hear without amplification.


A great preamp can transform your listening experience almost as much as your cartridge can. Some turntables include built-in preamps, which means you don’t need to attach your record player to powered speakers to get sound. However, even if your turntable has a preamp, you can bypass it and use an external preamp instead for better sound quality. However, some turntables with built-in preamps can give you excellent sound – it all depends on the preamp!


Keep Your Records Clean 


Whether you are listening to standard or picture disc vinyl, dirt, dust, and scratches can ruin the sound that you hear. Any kind of debris or damage can increase the noisiness of the signal that you get from a record. To increase the amount of signal in your signal-to-noise ratio, keeping your records clean is a must.


In addition, it’s helpful to be extra careful with how you store your records. Keeping a vinyl in its jacket if it is not being used is always a good idea. You can also equip each record in your collection with a protective sleeve. This sleeve will prevent dust and dirt from getting in and can protect a record from scratches.


Any vinyl in your collection deserves special care, and picture disc records are definitely no exception! To keep your collection looking and sounding great, keep your records stored well when they are not being used, and clean them with a dry brush occasionally to preserve their sound quality. That way, your records will look and sound great for years to come.


Sources:


Everything you need to know about turntable cartridges | The Vinyl Factory

How to choose the right cartridge for your turntable | UTurn Audio

How to Clean Vinyl Records the Easy Way | Discogs

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